2-week workshop for teens: planning stages

I was contacted recently by the Miami Wolfsonian Museum of Florida International University to design and teach a workshop for Miami teens. It was a welcome invitation for a number of reasons.

  • I’ve only taught high-schoolers a few times, and I’ve wanted to get more experience with this age group.
  • The Wolf has a new digital lab, and wants to integrate computer use into the curriculum, something Matt and I are working on in our upcoming second textbook, but haven’t been able to classroom-test at SVA, since there’s no digital lab or classroom in cartooning there.
  • The Wolf wants to break the components of this intensive workshop down into a number of shorter classes that they’ll run during the school year. I love that idea, and it’s so translatable to the needs of so many classroom teachers out there.

(I’m also a fan of Miami, and happy to spend some time there, even in the heat of late June, and even with our two-and-a-half-year-old daughter Aldara, and our three-month-old son Jasper in tow. Matt will take care of them while I’m teaching in the mornings, brave soul.)

The upshot of all this is that I’m designing a whole new curriculum, which, though based on others I’ve done, still poses a lot of interesting new questions and problems. I thought I’d throw it out here as I go and see if anyone has any ideas about what I’m planning. I’ll continue to post updates as I develop this workshop, and I plan to blog it while in Miami Beach in late June. I also hope to be able to create a class blog for the students’ work, but it remains to be seen whether this will work.

The structure of the class is M-F 9-5, with a half hour lunch. This is a ton of time to fill, but comics are very demanding, and we’re doing a lot, so it’ll still be overcrowded, and there will still be homework (sorry kids!). I will be teaching the morning sessions, 9-1, for the first seven days. I have a very able assistant teacher lined up, Caiphus Moore, who will handle afternoons, and guide the class after my departure for the last three days. I’ll be very sorry not to see it through to the end, but budget constraints make that impossible. And after 10 days in a hotel with two kids, I’m sure I’ll be happy to get home!

The lesson plan in its current form is below. I welcome any feedback on it; it’s still a work in progress. A couple of points: There are several main projects, designed to teach various skills.

  • The comic with no pictures is to focus on comics language and layout and lettering skills.
  • The on-location comic is to get the kids drawing from life and thinking about environments.
  • The on-location comic will be used to teach layout on the computer and basic print publication (in minicomics)
  • The largest project will be the 4-page comic, which will focus on story structure and character development.
  • The 4-pager will be published as a webcomic.

Wolfsonian Museum Comic Kraze lesson plan

10-day workshop for teens

10 sessions
9-5, half hour lunch break at 1 pm.

Morning session: Jessica Abel
Afternoon session: Caiphus Moore

Day 1:

today’s topic:

What are comics? How does the juxtaposition of words and images create narrative?

random selection of newspaper or magazine photos with captions all removed.


Introductions: Students and teachers introduce themselves, discuss interests and history/experience with comics

Jam comic (DWWP pg 13)
use one preprinted grid each

Critique jam comics (incl compositions) in small groups (see crit guides DWWP pg 237)

Read/discuss DWWP chapter 1, on projector if poss.
What are comics? What is narrative?

Sum of its parts (DWWP pg. 23)
Juxtaposition exercise
Use random selection of photos

Read/discuss DWWP ch 2


Read about figure drawing (DWWP pg 170-186)

Drawing from life activity: The head’s in your hands, DWWP pg 186

Reading: DWWP chapters 1-4, 9, 10


Reading ch 1-4, 9, 10

Day 2:

today’s topic:

story structure. How do you take your ideas and mold them into a story?


Panel lottery activity
Look at how adding panels to a story changes the narrative meaning.

Panel Lottery in action

Jessica leading Panel Lottery game at Rocketship, Brooklyn 2008

Discuss narrative arc, building from ideas.
DWWP ch. 9, ch. 2 of DWWP2

Discuss some short comics. Look for story structure, composition, some close reading (transitions, etc.)
DWWP ch. 4, ch. 11, develop close reading guidelines

Show one-pagers, such as:
-McCay, Rarebit Fiend, Sammy Sneeze
-Kurtzman, Hey, Look!
-Katchor, Julius Knipl or Metropolis strips
-Robt. Armstrong, “Dizzy Ratstein”
-Crumb, “Short History of America”
-Jessica, “Oh My Sisters”; “Maybe Next Year”
-Matt, “House Music,” “Salida”

Begin work on thumbs


Lecture/discuss Perspective (chapter from upcoming DWWP2)

drawing from your head: Character mashups DWWP pg. 147


Rough draft of thumbs for 4-page story

Day 3:

today’s topic:

Get your comics on the page. Thumbs and layout.


Individual critique thumbs

Page layout tutorial (DWWP pg. 81, but lay out for 10” x 15” not, 12” x 16”)

Ames tutorial (DWWP pg 91): use layout page as practice lettering page

A comic with no pictures DWWP pg. 95 Thumbnail in class


On location comics 1: layout/prep.

On location comic (Brooklyn Bridge) by Jung Yeon Roh

Indesign template creation for on location

Work on thumbs revision for 4-pager


Lay out and pencil comic with no pictures

Day 4:

today’s topic:

Inking, editing and revising.


Group critique thumbs for 4-pager/revise

Inking demo

Ink imageless comic


On location comics 2: field trip/drawing


finish on-location comics drawing

Day 5:

today’s topic:

InDesign and scanning, revision and editing.


Individual crit/review revised thumbs for 4-pager
demo scanning and layout in InDesign
demo one-sheet minicomics folding


On location comics 3: scanning and indesign.
Print out masters

HW for the weekend:

print and fold minis to trade Monday
lay out pages for 4-pager.

Day 6:

today’s topic:



Penciling demo/discussion (DWWP ch. 5)
Using computer for reference
Applying perspective in comics
Revision using computer and lightbox


Continue and set up/design blog

Day 7:

today’s topic:



Inking demo/discussion (DWWP ch. 8, ch. 13)
Begin lettering and inking


continue work on 4-pager

Days 8-10

Finish, correct,
color if desired.
Post finished work on workshop blog


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